SANGIN, Afghanistan – The morning started with a huge explosion as a platoon crossed a creek into unexplored territory.
With heavily armored vehicles as their guide, Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, cleared several compounds, looking for improvised explosive devices and signs of insurgent activity.
Marines patrolled the unknown area alongside the Afghan National Army and placed the ANA soldiers at the front to help them establish a relationship with the people.
“Our mission was to push further into enemy territory, show our force, and clear compounds known to be used by the Taliban,” said Lance Cpl. Brennan O’Boyle, an infantryman with Company K, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines.
“Whenever we went into a compound that was occupied, we made sure to send the ANA first,” said Staff Sgt. Armando Hopkins, a platoon sergeant with Company K, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines. “We want the people to see that the ANA is here to help them, which means the Marines are also here to help.”
With Marines tracking closely behind, the ANA came to the first compound.
“We found nothing in the first compound, but after we had been there for a few minutes, two rocket propelled grenades were fired at us,” O’Boyle said.
Not long after the rockets were fired, that compound became worth the risk.
“While we were there, a male who lived in the house told us he knew where a Taliban safe house was located,” said O’Boyle, a 23-year-old native of Chicago.
After the first compound was clear, the Marines continued on to more compounds. A few compounds later, the mission would pay off.
“In one of the compounds we found several improvised explosive devices,” O’Boyle said. “There were multiple artillery rounds that were filled with homemade explosives and primed.”
The IEDs were not wired to explode, but stored like a weapons cache, according to Hopkins.
“We were able to destroy the devices and monitor that compound with future patrols”, Hopkins said.
Moments later, an ground-shaking controlled detonation rocked nearby compounds. This startled the Marines but they continued to push forward. Throughout the day Marines came upon more compounds and continued to clear.
With each compound cleared and relationships established with a few locals, ANA soldiers and Marines headed back to base.
Marines had inspected the compounds for insurgent activity, but that was not the only goal of the mission.
“We also checked the compounds to make sure they were not booby-trapped for the safety of the people and Afghan National Army,” said Hopkins, a 26-year-old native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Hopkins said the mission was a success, but it won’t be the last time Marines clear that area.
“We are still going to police the area,” said O’Boyle. “We want to keep the locals happy and safe as best we can.”
This work, Afghan soldiers, Company K Marines patrol through Sangin, by Cpl Ned Johnson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.